For immediate release
Aug. 24, 2011

Nation’s Largest Environmental Organizations Stand Together To Oppose Oil Pipeline

Washington, DC — The heads of the nation’s largest environmental organizations—often at odds on the best strategy for combating climate change—released a letter today calling on President Obama to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would span from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. (1)

As another 56 people headed to jail today in the largest civil disobedience protests in the environmental movement’s recent history (2), the leaders of groups as diverse as Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund told the president, “there is not an inch of daylight between our policy position on the Keystone XL pipeline, and those of the protesters being arrested daily outside the White House.”


“On an issue as complicated as climate, there will often be disagreements over tactics and goals—just recall the differences over the Senate climate bill this time last year,” said Bill McKibben, one of the organizers of the protests for “But there are some projects so obviously dangerous that they unify everyone, and the Keystone XL pipeline is the best example yet.”

The leaders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Rainforest Action Network also made it clear they counted on President Obama to take decisive action to block the pipeline. “We expect nothing less,” they said, describing the pipeline battle as “perhaps the biggest climate test you face between now and the election” and adding that denying the permit would trigger a “surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election.”

In their letter, the leaders cited dangers to the climate, the risks of disastrous spills and leaks, and the economic damage that will come from continued dependence on fossil fuel in their letter, concluding, “this is a terrible project.”

The civil disobedience protests—now in their fifth day, and scheduled to last through September 3—played some role in the leaders’ decision to take a stand, though many of the organizations do not themselves engage in such protest.

“I have worked in the environmental movement since the first earth day in 1970, and this is reminding me of the spirit and unity we had back then. We are all together on this,” said Gus Speth, a founder of the NRDC in the 1970s and head of the Council on Environmental Quality under President Carter, who was among those arrested last Saturday and spent two nights in DC’s Central Cell Block.

“For those of us out there in front of the White House, the best thing about this ringing statement is that the administration won’t be able to play one group off against another by making small concessions here and there,” said McKibben. “They’ve all shown that there is one way to demonstrate to the environmental base that the rhetoric of Obama’s 2008 campaign is still meaningful—and that’s to veto this pipeline. Since he can do it without even consulting Congress, this is one case where we’ll be able to see exactly how willing he is to match the rhetoric of his 2008 campaign.”

1. The text of the letter follows:

Dear President Obama:
Many of the organizations we head do not engage in civil disobedience; some do. Regardless, speaking as individuals, we want to let you know that there is not an inch of daylight between our policy position on the Keystone Pipeline and those of the very civil protesters being arrested daily outside the White House. This is a terrible project–many of the country’s leading climate scientists have explained why in their letter last month to you. It risks many of our national treasures to leaks and spills. And it reduces incentives to make the transition to job-creating clean fuels.

You have a clear shot to deny the permit, without any interference from Congress. It’s perhaps the biggest climate test you face between now and the election. If you block it, you will trigger a surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election. We expect nothing less.


Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund
Michael Brune, Sierra Club
Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council
Phil Radford, Greenpeace
Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation
Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth
Rebecca Tarbotton, Rainforest Action Network
May Boeve,
Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters
Margie Alt, Environment America

2. To date, 275 people have been arrested at the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.